The Basics Conference (V)
This evening, after rather an excellent dinner, we gathered again to hear from John Lennox. In his first talk (yesterday afternoon) he spoke of the use of the mind in engaging the world. In this one he wanted to use Scripture to address the mind; and not only the mind but also the imagination. One of the wonders of God’s creation of the human mind is its ability to imagine. Parts of the Bible are written so we can imagine the realities that stand fundamental to our faith. And what better book to do this than Revelation? He looked to chapters 4 to 7.
The central theme of these chapters is the throne of God. This portion of Scripture is like a vast work of music, an opera in four acts, which rises and falls, which swells and falls back again. Each of these acts involves worship and culminates in worship. Worship is an assault on this materialistic age which denies that which is not material. It is also an assault on postmodernism since postmodernism denies the absolute nature of truth. Worship insists that we can know truth, for worship must be in spirit and in truth. Above all else, worship assumes that we know what ultimate reality is. It is based on God and so in order to worship God we must not only know who he is but we must know him.
Lennox made this point: you do not promote laughter by describing the inner workings of the mouth; instead, you tell a joke. How do you promote worship? By telling people about God. And he offered this warning: a pastor needs to be careful that he does not begin to study Scripture primarily to write sermons. He must be sure that he studies Scriptures to get to know God and allow that to form his sermons. It is so easy to fall into a professional process of simply writing sermons.
In the New Testament the word worship carries many ideas. For example, it may mean to bow down in the presence of a superior. And we may then ask, why would you want to bow before God? It’s a good question. If you acknowledge and bow down before someone, you acknowledge them as an authority. So what is it about God and his authority that would make you want to bow down before it?
John, in his exile in Patmos, learned that there is a door into another world; he was invited to go through that door and to see that there is another world and that in this world there is a throne. What an assault this is on the contemporary mind! Materialism denies that this other world even exists, not to mention that there is a throne in it. In this message Lennox wanted to have a little look through the door that is open.
In this passage from Revelation we begin to discover detail of the throne room. Much of this is symbolism and we must be careful not to confuse symbolism with code. In chapter 5 we discover a lamb and it is clear that this is Jesus. We discover a lion and this is Jesus too. There is a danger that we can take these symbols as code so where we read lion or lamb we read Jesus. A fair reading of Scripture shows us, though, that this is not meant to be a code but a metaphor. It’s not telling us who it is but what it is. It is using lamb and lion to tell something about the One whom we know it is. The book is full of symbols and his purpose tonight was to look at some of them to try to understand a little bit what they have to say to us.
And he did so, for each one pausing for a point of application to pastoral ministry. At first I tried to capture each of these but eventually I realized that a) I just couldn’t do it adequately and b) it would be best to hear these things rather than read my rough notes on them. So I will leave it to you to track down the audio and listen in as he moves from feature to feature of this heavenly throne room, describing each and drawing appropriate application.